Hong Kong’s government has cancelled all school classes in a U-turn on an earlier statement.

The Education Bureau on Thursday announced the suspension of kindergarten, primary and secondary school classes citing safety concerns arising from the city’s three consecutive days of unrest. A spokesperson said parents could send their children to schools if needed but urged them to be mindful of their safety.

Protesters sleep on an athletics track in the grounds of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong early on November 13, 2019. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

The move backtracks on an earlier statement from Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung who said that the decision to attend class should be left with parents and schools.

The Bureau also criticised an unnamed teachers’ union as failing to condemn protesters and blaming police for the ongoing violence: “The Education Bureau believes such remarks are in opposition to the professionalism that education workers should have,” the spokesperson said.

‘Violence is not the way’

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has condemned the wave of clashes – largely at university campuses – as destined to fail while doubling down on the government’s commitment to end it.

“Regardless of their demands, violence is not the way and it will not be successful,” he said at the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

John Lee and Matthew Cheung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Secretary for Security John Lee said the law is applicable everywhere in Hong Kong including at universities: “I hope universities will not become places to foster and incite violence,” he said.

Speaking about the head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Rocky Tuan, who was tear-gassed by the police on Tuesday evening, Lee said police had to act because protesters behind Tuan had weapons.

CUHK was the epicentre of unrest on Tuesday as masked protesters battled with police for control of No. 2 bridge at the Sha Tin-based campus. Police fired volleys of tear gas at demonstrators who threw Molotov cocktails and bricks.

CUHK head Rocky Tuan being escorted away after tear gas was fired. Photo: Stand News.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam blasted protesters as “extremely selfish” for attempting to paralyse Hong Kong over the course of two days.

Hong Kong has been shaken by 24 weeks of unrest triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfer to mainland China. The movement has evolved into wider calls for democratic reform and accountability for the police handling of the crisis.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.